Thursday, 26 February 2015

He, Cromwell

 I enjoyed the BBC's "Wolf Hall" in the end and went back and got into "Bring Up the Bodies" - even finished it. Mantel and publishers took note of criticism and made it a lot clearer, at the cost of having "He, Cromwell" on nearly every page. (They might almost use it as a subtitle in the reprint.) It was obvious ("clunky") - and annoying when it wasn't inserted but was still needed. And why not just "Cromwell said..." or whatever? It smacks of crisis or even panic editing or revision.

 Mantel reminds me of a neighbour who talks about her many friends as if I know them and thinks I understand their backgrond and histories as well as she does. I'm sure Mantel knew who she meant and identified with Cromwell but why not write it as him, in the first person, if "he" is (nearly) always "he, Cromwell"?

  I enjoyed Rylance's performance but he had to go with the overdone hagiographic line on Cromwell. The evidence, including Holbein's portraits, suggests that he was much nastier - cunning, ruthless, very hard-bitten. I disagree that Rylance gives a minimalist performance. For me, he overdoes the eye movement, the surprised or fearful looks. I imagine the real man was much tougher and stony-faced. But that wouldn't be so theatrical or televisual - or interesting, perhaps.

  Rylance is made to call himself  explicitly "a banker", rather than a lawyer. The parallels are obvious but wouldn't it have been interesting to emphasise also the medieval mindset, rather than the modern British sensibility and idiom? And more emphasis on the religious fanaticism of the times might have tolled a dreadful bell and added significant depth, with continuing topical relevance, unfortunately.